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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

EDUCATION IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE        83

clear that it is impossible for a Christian to be a teacher. A
teacher, he says, is compelled to celebrate the feast of Minerva,
and to bedeck his school in honour of Flora at the appointed
seasons: any other course would be a crime in the eyes of the
law. Moreover, in his teaching of literature he must tell his
pupils the scandalous stories of the old mythology, and explain
the attributes of the gods. Plainly that was no task for a Christian.
But if a Christian teacher could not defile his lips by speaking
about gods and goddesses, it might seem that there was an
equally strong case against a Christian pupil defiling his ears by
hearing about them. Yet Tertullian shrinks from the obvious
conclusion. In spite of his knowledge of the dangers to which
the Christian youth were exposed in the course of the ordinary
education, he does not think it possible to forbid their attendance
at the schools. " How otherwise/' he asks, " could anyone
acquire human wisdom, or learn to direct his thoughts and actions?
Is literature not an indispensable instrument for the whole
business of life ? "

Circumstances, however, proved too strong for the compromise
suggested by Tertullian. The Christian Church as a whole bowed
to the inevitable, and accepted the existing schools without
attempting to prevent its members from acting as teachers in
them. But there was one happy exception. The task of recon-
ciling paganism and Christianity in the sphere of education which
elsewhere had proved too hard was successfully accomplished in
the Catechetical School of Alexandria. In that cosmopolitan city,
the antagonism between the old faith and the new, though serious
enough, was made less keen by the fact that many Christian
scholars took up a sympathetic attitude to the religion and culture
of the past. The standpoint of Clement (circa 160-315) is charac-
teristic of the breadth and tolerance of Alexandrian Christianity
at its best* " The Gospel in his view is not a fresh departure, but
the meeting-point of two converging lines of progress, of Hellenism
and Judaism. To him all history is one, because all truth is one.
* There is one river of truth/ he says, * but many streams fall into
it on this side and on that.* The -civilization of the old world had
indeed led to idolatry, but idolatry, shameful and abominable as
it was, must be regarded as a fall The fruits of reason are to be
judged not in the ignorant and the sensual, but in Heraclitus, in
Sophocles, in Plato* For such as these science had been a covenant